Monday, November 18, 2019

Q&A with Andrea Cohen

Andrea Cohen, photo by Francesca G. Bewer
Andrea Cohen is the author of the new poetry collection Nightshade. Her other books include Unfathoming and Furs Not Mine, and her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including The New Yorker and The Threepenny Review.

Q: Over how long a period did you write the poems in Nightshade?

A: I think these poems were written over about a year and a half.

Q: Why did you choose Nightshade--also the title of one of the poems--as the collection's title? What does it signify for you?

A: For me, the idea of, or the fact of that bittersweetness of days seemed pretty emblematic of these poems. Of course, one is lucky to have a bittersweet life. The only probable alternative would be bitterness entire.

Q: In a review in the Washington Independent Review of Books, Grace Cavalieri writes of Nightshade, "Each page has either a conundrum or a puzzle at the center, as Cohen tries to light a dark world by strengthening thought and stripping words to their hidden literal meanings." What do you think of that assessment?

A: I think it’s a thoughtful consideration. And I suspect that trying to assess others’ assessments of one’s own poems is probably folly.

Q: How did you decide on the order in which the poems would appear in the collection?

A: I have a Ouija board. Or I don’t, but wish I did.

The real answer? I just look at the poems and try to imagine how they might connect with each other.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I just wake up and see what happens. I mean, I wake up, I sit down, and I write.

There is also coffee involved. A lot of coffee.

And the dog. Asking questions.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: I can recommend a couple books that are just out. One is Jane Mead’s To the Wren: Collected & New Poems 1991-2019. Sadly, it’s the last book we have from Jane. And one other is James Arthur’s The Suicide’s Son. And if you get the chance to hear James read, take it.

--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Andrea Cohen.

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